The Rochester Yellowjacket athletic community is reunited with one of its most decorated and celebrated members as Ashley Van Vechten ’08 is appointed new women’s head soccer coach.
As a four-year starter for the Yellowjackets at center defense, she was a three-time NCAA Division III All-American, and led the team to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2005 and 2006. Coach Van Vechten has come a long way since then and even further from where she started.
Growing up in the Rochester suburb of Brighton, Van Vechten started playing soccer at an early age. “Our backyard opened up to the town recreational fields […] and I would usually tag along with my brother and whatever he was doing,” she explained. “I was pretty bad at [first] but I did love the freedom of the sport.”
As a collegiate player, Van Vechten’s leadership on defense forced 48 shutouts in 79 matchups, but her talent for it developed with time. “Every child pretty much starts off as a ball chaser, right?” she laughed, “but I can’t remember why [I chose] defense, whether it was a conscious choice on my part or something my coach saw the potential in and matched my skill set with.”
“It’s a really cerebral position,” she continued, “It’s a collaborative approach, and you have to maximize everyone’s strengths so that your own weaknesses don’t impact the team to a great degree. I was organizing us so that together we would be greater than our individual skill and talent.”
Van Vechten credits countless coaches and teammates with aiding her development as a player, but one who stood out was youth coach and fellow Rochester native Rich Sloan. “He was someone who really helped me love the game and enjoy every moment of competition.” On the field, she credits attitude and mentality over any individual. “I loved learning from the teammates who would come every day ready to compete […] I was so appreciative that I had teammates that I could rely on to push me and say, ‘Let’s go have fun.’”
After graduating from the University with degrees in history and German, Van Vechten quickly realized her passion for education. She briefly worked in Germany as an English teacher before connecting her interests in soccer and education as a volunteer assistant coach for the Yellowjackets in 2011. “Seeing where someone’s level is and adding resources and skills to develop them, in both individuals and a collective group, is something that I am strongly passionate about and love about coaching.”
In 2018, she became Suffolk University’s head women’s soccer coach, carrying and developing her defensive and competitive coaching style with her. She earned Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) coach of the year in 2019 after leading the Rams back to the playoffs. She was announced as Rochester’s new women’s head soccer coach on Dec. 9, which she considered a homecoming: “I can’t say enough about what an exceptional place Rochester is. I came back so excited to rejoin the staff and work with some of the folks we have within the athletic department and community at large.”
Coach Van Vechten is inheriting a team that went 6-5-5 last season, along with posting no wins in one of the most competitive Division III soccer conferences. She is hopeful that building a strong team mentality will bring more success, both in the short and long term. “Because the foundation is educational, I have a growth mindset. When we go out to train, my expectation is you’re going to compete as hard as you can, you’re going to be focused, you’re going to have the right mentality.”
“You have a lot of those moments where you feel like you’re on top of the world, but throughout a season you also have a lot of challenging moments,” she added. “Developing a team’s mentality to the point where they feel confident and can take on whatever’s ahead has always been one of the coolest things I get to do.”
With a long off-season ahead, Coach Van Vechten will be working tirelessly to hone the qualities she values most in her team. Developing both on-field and off-field skills are equally important to her, as well as finding out “what it means to wear the Rochester badge.”
Put simply, Van Vechten says, “I don’t coach soccer. I coach humans.”
Correction (01/31/22): A previous version of the article said that Van Vechten became the head soccer coach of Suffolk University in 2017, when in fact she attained the position in 2018.